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The first co-ed a cappella group on campus sometimes receives offbeat reactions from its name.

“I get weird looks like, ‘what did you just say?’ and other times people would just start laughing, but everybody loves it,” said Cydnie Ritchie, accounting student, mentioning the reactions she receives after addressing the name of her student group, Pitch Please.

Ritchie, president of Pitch Please, has received similar reactions since her first semester. Now a senior, Ritchie is one of three remaining members to carry the group’s sound over since the group began.

In 2013, eight students from musical backgrounds on campus were looking to start a group that incorporated male and female sounds into a cappella. Prior to their start, no other a cappella group on campus performed with co-ed membership.

This semester, 17 students (eight male vocalists, eight female vocalists, and one beatboxer) are planned to make up Pitch Please. Throughout the last three years, Pitch Please has performed at events with other a cappella groups on campus while making an effort to stand out with a co-ed sound.

“It blends so nicely,” said Ritchie. “It’s just a different sound.”

Although the group identifies as the first co-ed a cappella group at the University, Pitch Please’s sound strayed from a cappella from the beginning according to Ritchie. After having 24 members from the start, Pitch Please has restricted membership as to avoid sounding “choral”.

Attracting up to 100 members in the past, Sean Gallagher, secretary of the group, said that much of their audience support comes from those limited from the stage at tryouts.

“We’re still one big family,” he said. “Even if you don’t make the group, there’s still a lot of people who haven’t made it in the group and have gone to our shows.”

Gallagher was introduced to the group by biological family. His sister, one of the founders, pushed Gallagher to join Pitch Please three years ago. At the time he entered, Gallagher had no a cappella experience.

Along with lacking experience in a cappella, despite being involved in theater performances during high school, Gallagher recalled being less confident in front of crowds. Now a senior, he has gained experience performing at events with the a cappella group from graduation to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA).

And his confidence has grown.

“The support [from] everyone in the group really brought me to have solos at events in front of hundreds of people and makes a big difference for me from the beginning of college to now,” said Gallagher.

As musical supervisor for Pitch Please, Grant Hilsenrath envisioned a different future for them than the initial direction of the group. Towards the group’s formation, Hilsenrath believes they would’ve been more successful if it had taken a more serious approach to a cappella.  

“I knew we always had a lot of potential and especially from the beginning, we didn’t give it our all,” he said.

Unsatisfied with the tempo last year, Hilsenrath believes the group’s success will be achieved with a faster pace and different set list to bring in larger crowds on campus.

Off campus, Hilsenrath believes the group can place higher in the ICCA with a more serious approach. Each year, hundreds of college a cappella groups participate in this at the international tournament. Pitch Please has not placed high in the competition for the last three years.  

“I want to make sure Pitch Please goes down in history as being the best a cappella group on campus,” said Hilsenrath.


Tyler A. McNeil is the current managing editor for the Albany Student Press. The Capital Region native previously served as managing editor for The Hudsonian, and as an intern for the Times Union and Capital Tonight.

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